Bristol City may have been beaten at the final hurdle of the Continental Cup on Sunday, but the 6-0 loss to Chelsea won't have dampened the mood in camp too much. For the Robins, the top priority for the season remains to stay afloat in the Women's Super League.
Following their win over Reading last time out, Bristol finally managed to lift themselves up from the bottom of the table, leapfrogging their manager's former side West Ham. As it stands, just one point separates the two clubs, with the Irons holding a game in hand over City.
Reflecting on the Conti Cup performance, Matt Beard discussed Bristol's mission statement to survive relegation in his post-match press conference at Vicarage Road.
"I can probably say that for the first time since I've been here that I was a little bit disappointed with the way we went about ourselves in the first half," the manager admitted. "But then there's also some positives that we can take. The ambition when I came in was to stay in the division. This [reaching the Conti Cup final] is a bonus and a massive learning experience for the group.
"As much as it's frustrating and we're disappointed with the result, I still think there's positives that we can take into the remainder of the WSL campaign."
Conti Cup "essential" for Bristol's survival hopes
The Robins enjoyed a fruitful Conti Cup run which ended in a David vs Goliath crunch match in the final. As reigning champions of both the Cup and the WSL, Chelsea made easy work of retaining their crown. This is an outcome that many expected before the ball was even kicked, with Bristol defender Laura Rafferty admitting that they were undoubtedly the underdogs heading into the tie.
The Blues are on track for securing yet another league title as they lead the pack with 41 points, having lost just one match and drawn two the whole season. They picked apart Bristol's defence on both WSL occasions this term, winning the respective fixtures 9-0 and 5-0. Whilst the hefty aggregate loss will have deflated the team, it will have managed Bristol's expectations heading into the Cup final.
Beard reflected on Chelsea's performance, stating that their dominant displays happen "week in, week out" and the large score-lines are not just exclusive to their meetings with Bristol.
"Chelsea are an unbelievably talented team and it was a tough task," he continued.
The Robins knocked out Aston Villa and Leicester in the previous rounds of the Conti Cup to get themselves drawn up against the English heavyweights. Simply being able to say they reached the final of the competition is a huge milestone amid a streak of disappointing seasons for them.
"It's been essential," Beard said when asked how important the Cup run has been for morale in camp. "If you look at the Aston Villa performance – that was Tanya's [Oxtoby] last game – it was probably one of the team's best performances of the season. I've utilised that to build on the good form we are on in the league.
"If you look where Chelsea and where we are, there's a big gap there, but I feel we're closing the gap with the teams around us. The players deserve so much credit for getting us in the position we're in in the league and obviously for getting us to this final. So from that perspective, it's been a great tool for me to utilise our league form."News Now - Sport News